July 23, 2014
The species of Alaska fish that are considered safe to eat every day, even by pregnant women and small children, has more than doubled based on expanded research by the state Division of Public Health.
All five species of Alaska salmon, halibut weighing 40 pounds or less when caught and the countless Alaska pollock sold as frozen fish sticks all have relatively low amounts of mercury, according to new and ongoing state research. The Health Department published updated guidelines for safe levels of fish consumption Monday.
The state began testing samples of seafood for mercury and other risky contaminants in 2001 and started testing for traces of the toxic metal in Alaska women of childbearing age in 2002. As of March, 1,145 women from 148 Alaska communities had shared hair samples with an Anchorage-based lab for analysis. Only four of the women, 0.3 percent, showed mercury levels that the Section of Epidemiology considers a health concern.
In 2007, the state listed 11 species of fish that were safe to eat in any amount for women and children. This week, that number expanded to 23 species, based on growing efforts to sample fish across the state. The fish aren't necessarily safer than they were seven years ago, but state health experts know more about the impact of eating Alaska fish on residents and are clearing more and more species for unlimited consumption.
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